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Indybay Feature
New Cannabis Prohibitions in Santa Cruz County
by Bradley Allen (bradley [at]
Wednesday Mar 25th, 2015 2:52 AM
On March 24, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted to ban the cultivation of cannabis in all unincorporated territories of the county, with limited exceptions.

[ Photo: Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. Left to right: Bruce McPherson, 5th District; John Leopold, 1st; Greg Caput, 4th; Zach Friend, 2nd; and Ryan Coonerty, 3rd ]

New Cannabis Prohibitions in Santa Cruz County

By Bradley Allen (@BradleySA)

On March 24, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 before an overflowing room to ban the cultivation of cannabis in all unincorporated territories of the county, with limited exceptions. Personal grows of 10×10 square feet are still permitted, with restrictions. Outdoor cultivation is entirely banned in the 2nd District, represented by Zach Friend, and includes the communities of Aptos, Corralitos, Freedom, and portions of Watsonville.

The vote amended the Santa Cruz County Code by deleting the existing Chapter 7.126, passed on February 11, 2014, in its entirety, and adding a new Chapter 7.126. The new version of the code drastically reduces the legal rights of patients to cultivate and access the wide-range of medicines they depend upon from the cannabis plant.

The February 2014 version of Chapter 7.126 includes "Section 7.126.040 Limited immunity for medical cannabis cultivation business." This section allowed for collective cultivation and distribution for use among its members, which is the model used by the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance. Collective cultivation allows patients to work together to produce their medicine, just like community vegetable gardens where resources, labor, and harvests are shared.

There were three recommendations and two proposals, referred to as Exhibits A & B, presented by the County Staff to the Board of Supervisors for the March 24 meeting. Staff was clear to say they were only presenting, and not recommending, Exhibit B which they said would allow for commercial cultivation.

The three recommendations were as follows:

1. To consider and enact the draft ordinance, Exhibit A [Complete Exhibit is Below] , entitled "Ordinance Repealing Chapter 7.126 Of The Santa Cruz County Code And Adopting New Chapter 7.126 Prohibiting The Commercial Cultivation of Cannabis;"

2. Direct the Planning Department to schedule community informational workshops to educate the public on the new ordinance; and

3. Direct the County Administrative Officer to return with a proposal to raise the Cannabis Business Tax rate in conjunction with budget hearings.

The Board of Supervisors voted to adopt Exhibit A.

The Board did not vote to raise the already absurd tax placed on the backs of patients, which is currently about 7%, but can get as high as 10%, as a result of measures K for Santa Cruz County and L for the City of Santa Cruz, which passed on November 4, 2014.

The Staff report states, "The 100 square foot personal grows allow patients or their caregivers to grow a very large amount of cannabis for their personal use (comparatively, other Counties allow much smaller personal grows). We believe that County residents will have the ability to obtain a sufficient amount of cannabis to meet their medical needs. In order to put an end to the serious and increasing problems the County is seeing as a result of the commercial cultivation of cannabis, County Staff strongly recommends that your Board enact the ordinance attached as Exhibit A."

The recommendations were signed by Dana McRae, County Counsel; Susan A. Mauriello, Chief Administrative Officer; Jim Hart, Sheriff-Coroner; and Kathy Previsich, Planning Director. At the meeting, these Staff members gave a multimedia presentation focused on environmental degradation resulting from cannabis cultivation. They spoke out against what they called a Gold Rush in Santa Cruz County since February 2014.

Following the presentation from County Staff, including the Sheriff's Department, there were three hours of public testimony, mostly in support of medical cannabis.

A theme of the speakers calling for tighter restrictions on medical cannabis was that they support small grows, but oppose large-scale commercial grows which harm the environment and their quality of life. Many people who spoke in favor of tighter restrictions said they live in either Boony Doon or Larkin Valley, opposite sides of the county, where they have seen significant changes in the last couple of years.

Nearly everyone who spoke before the Supervisors said they were against environmental degradation. Valerie Corral of The Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), a world-famous collective of patients and caregivers who helped to establish California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Proposition 215), stated that Santa Cruz County should lead the way with organic methods for sustainable cannabis production, as opposed to Monsanto and Phillip Morris brand cannabis.

WAMM has been granted special status, by both the federal and local governments, to collectively cultivate and provide for their members. However, the county's new Cannabis Business Tax has been enforced on WAMM patients since early 2015, even though WAMM is a well-known, federally recognized, non-profit collective and non-business entity. This even includes members who financially are unable to reimburse WAMM for the cost of production. These members still receive medicine from the collective, but they must pay the Cannabis Business Tax for the value of their donated medicine.

Ben Rice, a widely-known and influential defense attorney, stated he represents many people in the room, and the new ordinance is a step backwards for Santa Cruz County. Rice, who famously represents WAMM, was actually the proponent of Measures K and L, the Cannabis Business Tax for Santa Cruz County and the City of Santa Cruz.

Allen Hopper, a Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Director at ACLU of Northern California, testified that he was concerned that patients will be targeted even though Sheriff Hart said they won't be.

John Callahan, a retired veteran, declared that a mandated setback of 600 feet would be an unfair burden preventing him from producing cannabis. The new ordinance which was passed states, "If cultivation takes place outdoors, evidence of cultivation shall not be visible from any public right-of-way."

A woman speaking on behalf of her friend Amanda, who has severe epilepsy and was unable to attend the meeting, stated that cannabis delivery services are vital. For example, many people who have epileptic seizures are prohibited from driving. The new ordinance bans all cannabis delivery services in Santa Cruz County, leaving patients and their caregivers with only inadequate options.

I asked Jason Sweatt, a US Army combat veteran and the director of the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance (SCVA), how the new ordinance would impact their collective. He replied, "It's already impacted us. We got red-tagged for an indoor cultivation facility in a commercial zone."

Speaking before the Board, Aaron Newsom, a co-founder and patient of SCVA rightly complained that "all rights are going to dispensaries and none to collectives." Newsom elaborated that SCVA helps provide veterans with top quality medical cannabis, many of whom suffer from a tremendous range of physical and mental conditions, such as PTSD, depression, and other mental illnesses which lead many veterans to suicide.

After the meeting, the SCVA wrote in a tweet, "Horribly disappointed with the outcome of today's vote on cannabis cultivation in Santa Cruz."

At the January 27, 2015 meeting, Supervisor Zach Friend of District 2 addressed the room full of Santa Cruz County residents and warned, "you're lucky you don't live in Riverside," referring to the conservative-leaning county in southern California which enacted an outright ban on outdoor cannabis cultivation.

Exhibit A for the new Santa Cruz County ordinance outlines that, "on May 6, 2013, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled in City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, Inc. ("Inland Empire"), that California's medical cannabis laws do not preempt local ordinances that ban medical cannabis facilities; and that local police power derived from Article XI, section 7, of the California Constitution includes broad authority to determine [...] the appropriate uses of land within a local jurisdiction."

Pat, who described himself as a small-time family cultivator, replied to Zach Friend's statement from two months ago by emphasizing, "You're lucky you don't live in Riverside, because none of you would have gotten elected there. You were elected to represent us."

Another person stated, "Patients deserve safe and affordable access to medicine," and went on to explain that under the new ordinance, "Patients will be forced into the shadows instead of welcomed into the light."

Cannabis also has a major affect on the economy of Santa Cruz County, as expressed by man who proclaimed, "Santa Cruz has a reputation for growing some of the best marijuana in the world. We're a leader. I'm not a grower or patient."

Trevor Luxon of Live Oak, an attorney working with Ben Rice and an epilepsy patient, said "medical marijuana is not going to leave Santa Cruz County, but it will be driven underground."

Taylor, a patient and resident of Santa Cruz, stressed that, "it's essential to have access to delivery services with a variety of strains." She uses cannabis to effectively treat her debilitating mental conditions. In closing, Taylor powerfully and unapologetically declared, "My medicine helps me and my family, and it keeps me happy and healthy. If my medicine offends you, then you probably don't see it as a medicine."

A combat wounded veteran and member of SCVA testified that, "the ordinance will cause people to seek dangerous pharmaceuticals from a flawed VA [Veterans Affairs] system."

Jason Matthys, founder of Cannabis Advocates Alliance of Santa Cruz County, told the Board of Supervisors that, "non-dispensary collectives are vital to patients."

Another patient followed by informing the Supervisors, "If you juice cannabis, it takes a lot more than if you smoke it. And that hasn't been vetted here. A 10x10 won't work for us."

Manuel Raquel, a 5th district resident represented by Supervisor Bruce McPherson, told the Board that she makes a cannabis salve, which requires 1 lb of flowers to produce 1 oz of salve, and therefore the new proposal won't work her situation.

John, a resident homeowner for over 35 years in Santa Cruz County and a cancer survivor, said, "Cannabis is just like wine. We need to get over the stigma." John further emphasized, "Don't step back in time by putting prohibition back in place. We're a progressive county."

Section "7.126.030 Prohibited activities" in the new ordinance states that, "Cultivation can only take place on a parcel that includes the residence of the patient or caregiver, and cultivation is limited to one resident per parcel."

Speaking before the Board, a Ben Lomond resident said, "a 10x10 outdoor grow won't cut it for the medical needs of my family."

Somebody else raised the point that, "People have a right to know how their medicine is grown and who it is grown by."

No rationale was given by the County Staff or Board of Supervisors, either in their report or at the meeting, as to why multiple family members are now restricted to sharing a single, inadequate, 10x10 plot.

Attorney Sasha Brodsky, representing the Cannabis Advocates Alliance, urged Board members, "Let's address all these community concerns and formalize them using third-party compliance for cannabis cultivation."

Despite all the sensible and heart-felt testimony against the new ordinance, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors approved it in a 3-2 vote. Supervisors Ryan Coonerty and John Leopold were able to maintain, and probably elevate, their undeserved status as progressive politicians, by casting the dissenting votes, which tangibly amount to nothing, since the ordinance passed anyway.

After the Board of Supervisors meeting I caught up with Jason Matthys of the Cannabis Advocates Alliance (CAA) and asked for his feedback. Matthys states, "We want everything that the county wants; safe communities and protection for the environment. But we want to do it in a way that doesn't harm patients."

Matthys elaborated, "We need diversity of medicine, products, and producers. One strain that works well for one patient may not work for another. If the county moves to restrict cultivation to very few producers, then there will be increased incentive to grow only high-yielding, high-THC strains, and many of the heirloom and rare strains of cannabis may be lost forever."

For people who are concerned about patient access to safe cannabis medicine in Santa Cruz, Matthys suggested, "People can contact the Board with their concerns. Contact information for the Board is available on the CAA website. We encourage and invite everyone to attend our meetings held most Wednesday nights, 7 PM, at the Louden Nelson Community Center in Santa Cruz. For updates and more information, visit the Cannabis Advocates Alliance (CAA) website, email us at, and connect with us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter."

Bradley Allen was born and raised in southern California and has lived in Santa Cruz since 2000. Medicinal cannabis is one of his many interests. All content is available for non-commercial reuse, on non-commercial websites. For other usage, please contact me. A link to this article is appreciated. Support and create local independent media.

§Exhibit A: Ordinance Repealing Chapter 7.126 And Adopting New Chapter 7.126
by Bradley Allen Wednesday Mar 25th, 2015 2:52 AM
7 Pages.

Exhibit A. “Ordinance Repealing Chapter 7.126 Of The Santa Cruz County Code And Adopting New Chapter 7.126 Prohibiting The Commercial Cultivation of Cannabis”
§Cannabis Advocates Alliance flyer
by Bradley Allen Wednesday Mar 25th, 2015 2:52 AM
Flyers for the Cannabis Advocates Alliance were distributed after the Board of Supervisors meeting.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by MMA Supporter
Wednesday Mar 25th, 2015 5:57 AM
Zach Friend is right. It's just not Riverside County that's unfriendly-most of the inland counties are. All the Central Valley counties ban outdoor cultivation and only a few permit limited indoor growing. Fresno County along with Kern County bans any cultivation at all.

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors has, in the recent past, considered a lawsuit to have the CUA declared unconstitutional because of its conflict with federal law. The current county ordinance imposes fines of $1,000 per plant per day plus the cost of abatement. Growers and property owners (many of whom weren't aware of grows on their land) are being hit with five and six figure fines. The board has applied pressure on the 15 cities in the county to conform to the county ordinance.

The Fresno city council will be voting on an amended ordinance this week to limit indoor growing to four plants in a limited exemption to the cultivation ban now in place in the city.
by Malcolm Kyle
Wednesday Mar 25th, 2015 8:54 AM
Prohibitionists are fundamentally opposed to everything that can be subsumed under social progress. The struggle for life, liberty, and justice often begins where rulers or governments abuse their power. If you are a prohibitionist then you no longer work for the good of the people. To suppress and torment individual citizens for their personal tastes, interests or affiliations is fascism.
by G
Wednesday Mar 25th, 2015 9:24 AM
If PredPol is in the business of crime...

Wouldn't anyone with a financial stake in PredPol have a conflict of interest when it comes to ignoring the will of the voters and creating new 'crimes'?

I suspect Zach Friend could get elected in Riverside. How he gets elected in Santa Cruz is an interesting question. Perhaps it's those zombie voters?
by Razer Ray
Wednesday Mar 25th, 2015 3:22 PM
Until everyone stops pandering to their shitstem like typical socially conforming middle class business peeps and tell the state to fuck off.

Colorado has it right... It's ALL "Medical Marijuana"... INCLUDING recreational use.

The state of California allowed pot smokers to divide and conquer themselves over a bullshit half-assed 'law' and NOW you're all getting screwed by your own desired arrangement.

You CANNOT FIX a law that was NEVER intended to serve you, but simply served as a precursor to the state making revenue from it.

The solution IS NOT AND NEVER WAS "LEGALIZATION" The state HAS NO RIGHT to 'regulate' marijuana, and allowing them to humor themselves into believing they can is a sucker's game THEY win.

The solution is to SUNSET all laws pertaining to marijuana.
by michael boyd
Wednesday Apr 1st, 2015 2:29 PM
Mr. Allen's article excluded the facts of my lawsuit against the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors over their tax and regulation of medical marijuana in the County. I believe the Author has bias that clouds his story by purposely excluding relevant facts. I attended the March 24, 2015 Hearing on the New Cannabis Prohibitions in Santa Cruz County and added the Sheriff and Supervisor Coonerty to my suit in the federal court too. But this story mentions none of this, just like the lame stream media at the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Why the cover-up of my medical marijuana patient-caregiver lawsuit against the County. Is it because and the so-called grower's alliance is part of the conspiracy to violate my federal civil rights under color of state law as a patient?? I think so.

I filed my case in July 2014 in Santa Cruz County Superior Court before the November tax vote that would increase the sales and use tax on medical marijuana from the current rate of 8.25% to a total of 18.25%. I opposed the ballot measures by stating I was suing the County under my First Amendment Right to Sue. Free speech protects your right to sue the government. The basis of my suit was that since on May 30, 2014 the Republican controlled House of Representatives voted to define medical marijuana as "medicine" exempt from federal drug enforcement laws against "non-medical" marijuana. This was later made part of the Omnibus Budget Act that President Obama signed in to federal law on December 16, 2014 in the passage of H.R.83. Under California State law "medicine" is exempt from taxation, so once the bill passed the house it was exempt from taxation. The BOS of Supervisors then engaged in a conspiracy with Attorney Ben Rice [whose wife works in the DA's Office] to convince voters to support the tax. So when the tax passed in both the County and City after the election in December 2014 I identified the City of Santa Cruz, the entire City Council, and all the public employees who signed to support the the ballot measures K & L in my lawsuit. These included a Fire Chief and Assistant Chief of Police. In January 2015 I filed with the Superior Court an Amended Complaint against all these names Defendants. Two days later the County Counsel removed my action to the US District Court in San Jose. My case number is 15-cv-00405. See

This case involves the rights of California taxpayers to collectively and individually file for a refund for improperly collected local taxes and the unconstitutional animus of government Defendants to such refunds. Specifically, animus is present where the public laws are harnessed to create and enforce distinctions between social groups—that is, groups of persons identified by status rather than conduct.

My fight to get a Remand back to the Superior Court is here:

Don't think I know anything that I am writing about, but Allen does?? Check my qualifications. I am very familiar about this type of litigation since I filed a similar lawsuit against the CPUC and individual Commissioners and recently won at the US Court of Appeals for Ninth Circuit

Now with the BOS 3-2 vote on the recent ban I am going to file for a Preliminary Injunction in the US District Court to stop the collection of tax and the ban from going into effect in the middle of May.

Indy Bay readers should follow this and find out why the so-called cannabis alliance isn't supporting medical cannabis patient's rights over their own bottom lines. There is no such thing as a "cannabis business" under state or federal law. Under the Compassionate Use Act Prop 215 (1996) there are patients and caregivers only, and collectives. "Cannabis business" is a ruse the County BOS created to stigmatize patient's compassionate use of medical marijuana.
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